Franklin County is on track to record the fewest number of methamphetamine labs in many years, according to the county’s top narcotics investigator.

Detective Sgt. Jason Grellner, head of the Franklin County Narcotics Enforcement Unit, said he’s expecting the number of labs investigated by the task force to drop below 100 this year.

From last January through Dec. 1, Grellner said the task force has investigated and seized about 60 labs.

That compares to 102 labs seized in 2012. That number was up from the 97 meth labs investigated in 2011, but down from 106 in 2010.

“We’re definitely looking at being below 100 this year,” Grellner told The Missourian.

“We’ve seen a sharp reduction in the last four to six months,” he said.

Meanwhile, the number of labs has been climbing in St. Louis County and the city of St. Louis, Grellner remarked.

Grellner attributes the reduction to the growing number of cities and counties that have passed laws requiring people to have a prescription to purchase medicines containing pseudoephedrine, the vital ingredient needed to make homemade meth.

St. Louis County and city do not have prescription laws.

Labs Down Statewide

Statewide, Grellner said it appears that this year, Missouri will drop out of first place in the nation for meth labs.

Final statistics likely won’t be available until February.

But the latest report from the Missouri Highway Patrol puts the number of meth labs investigated in Missouri at 1,217 for the first three quarters of 2013.

That’s down sharply from the 1,960 meth labs investigated in 2012, which at the time was the lowest in three years. There were 2,096 labs reported in Missouri in 2011 and 1,985 in 2010.

“I’m happy to see the decline in Missouri,” Grellner said. He said he’s certain that is due to the passage of prescription-only laws, “mainly in southeast Missouri.”

That entire region has moved to prescription-only laws which has resulted in a sharp decrease in meth labs in that part of the state.

About three years ago, Grellner spearheaded the move to get cities and counties to require prescriptions to buy medicine containing pseudoephedrine after the state Legislature repeatedly failed to pass a statewide measure.

Since then more than 70 cities and counties around the state now have prescription laws making it more difficult for meth cooks to get the component they need to make meth.

That has led meth cooks and traffickers to those areas without laws in place. In some instances, criminals pay people off the street to buy cold pills and then they turn around and sell them, for a profit, to meth cooks.

Grellner said he’s still working Springfield officials to pass a precription ordinance in that community.

He recently addressed a committee of the Kirksville city council which recommended passing a prescription ordinance. The full council is expected to vote on that measure in early 2014, Grellner said.

Out of First Place

While Missouri is looking at a decline in meth labs, Indiana appears to be next in line for the No. 1 meth lab state in the nation, followed by Tennessee, Grellner said.

“Indiana has been struggling to pass any new (meth lab) legislation,” he said.

“I’d be happy to see Missouri slip to third behind Tennessee,” Grellner remarked.

Other states near the top in meth labs currently are Michigan, Ohio and West Virginia, he explained.

Police agencies in Missouri classify meth lab incidents into three categories: operational/nonoperational labs, chemical/glassware/equipment seizures, and lab dump sites.

All law enforcement agencies in the state are required to report the seizure of methamphetamine laboratories to the highway patrol which then enters Missouri’s seizures into the National Clandestine Laboratory Seizure System, which is maintained by the Drug Enforcement Administration at the El Paso Intelligence Center (EPIC) in El Paso, Texas.